Trials By Ordeal

What was trial by ordeal?
In early medieval times, when the guilt of a criminal could not be decided, a trial by ordeal was held to allow God to determine whether or not an accused was guilty.
Which trials by ordeal did the Anglo-Saxons use?
The Anglo-Saxons used 4 main trials by ordeal.
  • Trial by hot water.
  • Trial by hot iron, often used for women accused of crimes.
  • Trial by cold water, often used for serfs or other people of low status.
  • Trial by consecrated (or blessed) bread, which was taken by priests.
Which trial by ordeal did the Normans introduce?
As well as the Anglo-Saxon trials by ordeal, the Normans used trial by combat.
How was combat used in the trial by ordeal?
Trial by combat was where the accused fought with the accuser until one of them was killed or unable to fight on. The loser was then hanged, as God had judged them to be guilty.
How was hot water used in the trial of ordeal?
For a trial by hot water, the accused had to plunge their hand into boiling water and have it bandaged for three days. If the burn healed well, this was seen as a sign God judged the person to be innocent.
How was hot iron used in a trial by ordeal?
In trial by hot iron, hot iron was used to burn the hand, which was bandaged for three days. If the burn healed well, this was seen as a sign God had found the person innocent.
How was cold water used in a trial of ordeal?
In trial by cold water, the accused had their arms tied and was thrown into a pond or river that had been blessed by a priest. Those who floated were found guilty as God had 'rejected' them, while those who sank were judged innocent and hauled up again.
How was blessed bread used in a trial of ordeal?
Trial by consecrated, or blessed, bread was taken by priests. He would first have to pray, asking that he be choked by the bread if he lied. If he did, it meant he was guilty.
How were trials by ordeal conducted in Anglo-Saxon times?
There were 3 important procedures in the way the trials by ordeal were run.
  • Because the trials were designed to allow God to decide on the guilt or innocence of the accused, a priest had to be present.
  • The accused would often spend three days at a holy site or in a church or monastery before the trial, praying and fasting.
  • The accused would attend mass before the trial.
Scroll to the answer
Clever Lili logo

Welcome to Clever Lili!

Turbocharge your history revision with our revolutionary new app! Clever Lili is here to help you ace your exams.


Ask Lili

Enhanced Learning


AI Tutor

Study Guides

Android and iOS App

Alexa and Google Home

Ask question in Facebook Messenger

Sign Up It's free